Taronga’s vibrant Squirrel Monkey group has a new baby. Keen-eyed visitors can spot the tiny male holding on to mum, Lena, like a tiny furry backpack as she leaps around the exhibit.
The youngster has been named Julio and keepers say he and Lena are doing extremely well.
This is the first infant to be born out of the introduction of Taronga’s male, Chico, to 12 female Squirrel Monkeys from France last year through the regional breeding program.
Primate keeper, Suzie Lemon, says: “Lena and baby are doing amazingly well. A lot of the female Squirrel Monkeys have been interacting with the baby, and our two oldest Squirrel Monkeys, Ayaca and Squirius, have been showing a lot of interest by vocalising at him and rubbing up against him.”
Although just two weeks old, Squirrel Monkeys develop very quickly. “He has already been seen climbing on ropes by himself with all four legs, with just his tail holding onto mum.
“In the next few weeks we’ll see other females start to carry him around and nanny him a bit, then he’ll slowly start to explore on his own,” said Suzie.
Another youngster, Carlos, can still be seen riding on his mother Lalosa’s back despite being almost the same size as her.
“Carlos is eating what everyone else eats now. He loves insects, fruit and vegetables but still suckles from mum occasionally. Whenever he’s scared he’ll jump on her back.”
“The other day Carlos was reaching out and touching the baby wanting to play and interact him. We’re hoping they’ll be jumping around the tree tops together very soon.”
Squirrel Monkeys are one of the smallest of the primates and are found in the wild in Central and South America where they can live in groups of up to 500.
The Bolivian Squirrel Monkey is not threatened, however other species of Squirrel Monkey such as those in Costa Rica and Panama face threats due to deforestation and fragmentation and the illegal pet trade.
Australian travellers are encouraged to report illegal wildlife trafficking using the Wildlife Witness app. The app is a free download and enables travellers to report suspicious activity.
Come and see the Squirrel Monkeys at map reference L9, just behind the Alligators.